The survey was completed by Education Week Magazine and puts the Maryland public school system as fifth in the nation for overall education quality. Massachusetts grabbed the number one spot, followed by New Jersey, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Even though fifth place nationwide may seem like an impressive accomplishment — and it is — the ranking also serves as an educational fall from grace for the state. Since last year Maryland has fallen from fourth to fifth place and has yet to regain its status as the number one state for education.
All in all, the state was given an overall grade of a B, a C+ for student achievement in kindergarten through grade 12, and a B+ for school finance.
The state isn’t making any excuses about the slip but is instead blaming the poor marks on the lack of state funding and a change of leadership in the Maryland State Department of Education.
“We have a lot of unmet needs. Money is what it’s all about. If we have better after school programs, if we have smaller class sizes, if we have early childhood programs that work those are all investments we need to make,” explains Betty Weller, representative of the Maryland State Education Association, to WBALT.com.
Luckily, the MSEA is not alone; the majority of Marylanders believe it is important to increase funding for public education. A recent public poll shows that 83% of Marylanders think it is crucial to spend more on public education to improve existing public schools and potentially raise teacher salaries.
Plus, the voters were so adamant on getting more funding that a full 73% explained that they would favor a statewide increase even if corporate loopholes were closed and income taxes for the state’s highest earners were increased.
Even more surprising? The consensus to continue funding did not fall on partisan lines, meaning both Republican and Democrat voters agreed to up funding. Because of that rare unity, this poll instantly grabbed the attention of lawmakers from both political parties in Annapolis.
Weller continues, “This did not fall on partisan lines. This was no matter where you were, no matter what your politics were or what your race was the majority of people believe that our public schools need to be adequately and equitably funded.”
Additionally, the majority of Maryland voters are pushing for funding for pre-kindergarten enrollment programs. Considering that within the first few years of life about 700 new neural connections are formed every second in a child’s brain, lawmakers are adamant that early education should be an educational priority moving forward.
Unfortunately, this funding discussion does not apply to the private schools in Maryland, at least not yet. Overall there are 33,619 private schools in the United States that serve 5.4 million PK-12 students, but their funding comes from private sources instead of receiving government funding.
However, with a new administration in Washington, D.C. promising to provide more funding for school choice programs, even that could be changing in the years to come.